Why? By: Jacob M Engel
(People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it (Simon Sinek, Author of Start WithWhy)
When my father passed away in 1995, I not only lost my father, I also lost my life long mentor and a true leader. As a Holocaust survivor, he built our family business from scratch to 200MM yet managed to preserve his authenticity, his integrity, and his principles. He never lost sight of what was most important and those always came first.
I learned from him every day and so much more, yet I felt that his early passing left a huge void, which I’m trying to fulfill.
In the recent financial meltdown, I had many a sleepless nights, yet I was determined to come out stronger and help others to do the same. I persevered and in the process have written a book about my father and the beliefs that allowed him to go on and those that have helped me. I shared his mission with others and in the process came out stronger as well.
I would love to talk to you.
Jacob M Engel, Founder & CEO
PS – I wrote a book titled The Prosperous Leader in his honor which details many principles he spoke about. Go to
Who we are- History of my father Barry Engel:
Excerpts from my book The Prosperous Leader.
I was recently in West Palm Beach, and while standing in line at a health spa, I saw someone in front of me with a nametag that read, “Michael Gerber”.
He looked very approachable, so I asked him, “Are you THE Michael Gerber?”
He said yes.
“Of The E-Myth fame?” I asked.
He answered, “Yes,” and then he invited me to his table. I was very excited to hear him expound on his vision of creating the Entrepreneur University and his work in training entrepreneurs worldwide, and he invited me to San Marcos, where he runs his seminars.
I then had the chuptzah to ask him if he would read my manuscript, and he said, “You know? I get many requests every day and I say no, but to you I’ll say yes!”
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
“Candidly,” he told me after reading it, “I was more interested in your father’s story [brought up briefly in the introduction] than I was in yours. This book on leadership could be – should be – your father’s story.”
I had also asked him to suggest a title. He suggested “Leadership Lessons from the Holocaust (and How They Apply to America Today)”.
“You see,” he explained, “the Jews who suffered in Germany, had, in a cruel way, participated in their own demise, by not believing that what was about to happen could happen. “See how easily it can happen?
That’s your book. It’s about leadership, but leadership in our everyday lives.
You must write about leadership not as an idea, but as an action that we – each of us – must immediately take. Why is it that we can’t see that with over 17 trillion dollars in debt (incurred in just 20 years!) and an accrued un-payable liability of more than 90 trillion dollars, that we, in this country, are going bankrupt – in fact, actually are bankrupt?
“Why can’t we see it? Because we choose not to. That’s one of the most important leadership lessons from the Holocaust: We chose not to! And so the indescribable happened!
“Write a real book, Jacob!”
So here it is.
Profile of a Role Model: From Holocaust Horrors to Prosperous Leadership
Barry Engel 1928-1994
My father was a true role model – not only for our family, but also for our community and beyond. He made it out of the horrors of the Holocaust and went on the create and (re)build a legacy that not only was a legend in his lifetime, but that even now, almost 20 years later, still remains!
Barry Engel was born in 1928 in Tokay, Hungary – a pastoral town known for its wonderful vineyards and excellent wine. His boyhood was no different than that of any other boy growing up in Eastern Europe in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His family enjoyed a life of relative wealth and prominence. That is, until Hitler came to power in Germany and conquered country after country, eventually threatening even the world powers. By the time England and the United States intervened, 6 million Jews and millions of others had been murdered in the infamous death camps. Barry’s own father, Jeno (Jacob) Engel, had been rounded up in Budapest and sent to the Auschwitz Death Camp, from which he never returned.
Rising From the Ashes
After the Allies brought the Third Reich to its knees and liberated the camps, the survivors tried returning to their homes to start new lives. For most of them, this hope could not be realized, as they discovered they were not really welcome in their own countries either.
After attempting to settle in several countries, my father came to New York, with no money, language or family. (His mother and siblings would come later.) Years later, he would jokingly reminisce that even the clothes on his back, which he’d bought right before leaving Hungary, he had to throw out, because it made him look like a “Greenhorn”, which was a label that immigrants tried very hard to avoid.
A Dream Comes True
My father was able to find a job on the Lower East Side, working for a spice-importing company called “Schoenfeld & Sons”. The owner of the company, Mr. Schoenfeld, encouraged him to go out on his own, so my father opened a spice shop in Brooklyn with his mother and eventually his younger brother. He told Mr. Schoenfeld that one day, he would bring in a million dollars a year in sales.
From the storefront in Brooklyn, his business eventually moved up to a factory and warehouse in Queens, then to a larger factory and warehouse in Brooklyn, and then to an even larger facility in New Jersey, eventually growing to encompass two facilities and many warehouses. The company very quickly surpassed the million-dollar mark and continued to grow many times over. He was able to dream and dream big.
A Community Activist
My father was also very prominent and active in community affairs, and was especially fond of helping others who struggled in their careers or business. He helped many people start and run successful companies, and they always joked about having an uncle in New York loan them three thousand dollars (in 1955 dollars) to help their fledging businesses. His motto was, “If you were blessed, make sure to help others.”
A Model of Humility
Though he dealt in millions and gave away millions to charity, he never felt the need to “show off”. He lived a simple (albeit comfortable) life, and enjoyed his wealth in a healthy way. He didn’t think it was beyond his dignity to fundraise for his favorite charities (which were many), and though he was often the largest donor, he was always ready to help the causes he believed in. His motto was, “Charity is obligatory and helping others was mandatory.”
A Pillar of Courage
Though my father was a peaceful man, he never shirked from standing up for what was right, and wouldn’t tolerate those who didn’t. His motto was, “If you are put in a situation that requires courage, then stand up and be courageous.”
Yes, my father had many mottoes. In looking back at his ideas, I’ve been able to trace them back to some of history’s greatest philosophers and leaders. But, as he didn’t have any formal education (or its contemporary substitute – the internet), these were ideas that he created in his own mind but were still solid principles that helped him shape his own leadership personality:
1. Never confuse efforts for results!
2. Remember and be true to your roots. Understand your core essence and responsibilities.
3. Find a balance between others’ needs and your own.
4. There are two secrets to success: Having great ambitions and having an even greater discipline to achieve those ambitions.
5. Be humble. If you were given gifts, use them to help others, not to spite others.
6. Have an open mind to learn new things. If all you do is talk, you are just repeating what you know. If you listen, you learn new things.
7. Anyone (idiot) can sell a dollar for ninety-nine cents
8. Know what you stand for and what you won’t stand for. If you’re in a leadership position, think of the impact of doing the right thing.
9. Think past your nose. Have a wider vision, and don’t think small
10. Always give back to the community. Everyone needs someone to help him at one time or another.